Celtic Tiger – The Show Must Go On

Directed and Choreography Michael Flatley

Rating: 2 out of 5.

With no ill intent, Americans will love this. Which will probably answer any questions for anyone watching Celtic Tiger. Lord of the Dance, the flashiest of toe-tappers and a bonified Irishman performer, Michael Flatley has an exceptionally acute sense of over-the-top style, panache and gusto when it comes to dance for the masses, and those families who are 100% certain they have Scottish or Irish heritage. Claiming to be his most ambitious piece to date, there is no denial about the bloated excesses of Celtic Tiger – a production which seeks to promote a sense of spiritual awakening and a fight for freedom.

When first hearing Michael Flatley, initial thoughts are of hideous emerald leotards, legs akimbo and Flatley at the head parading topless, for some reason. But it’s oh so much worse than this. Often insulting, more often confusing, Celtic Tiger tackles ballet, salsa, cheerleading and yes, Riverdance, amidst a myriad of tacky, gormless strutting.

From highland clearances, Bloody Sunday (no, seriously) and Al Capone, to Flatley single-handedly defeating the English Redcoats – Celtic Tiger feels like a mid-life crisis on overdrive. Raunchy strip-teases sit in the same category as ‘tributes’ to the Irish struggles and unrest. Marvellous choreography from the industry’s finest professionals, with some world-class string instrumentals and live bands, are upstaged by bikinis and fireworks. Little makes sense in Flatley’s direction of the production, nor does David Malley’s direction of the camerawork.

A particular issue is that it’s too cinematic, there’s an edit every few seconds which distract immeasurably from the snippets of genuine talent, the training, precision, and effort. These dancers are extraordinary, and the framing fails to allow this to be the focus – instead, drawing our eye to what else? Flesh. Flesh, glitter, and banners. Occasionally the camera-crew realise a necessity of Irish stepdance is to allow the audience to witness the mesmeric speed and articulation of footwork, but it’s usually for a moment before cascading back down the neckline of a young dancer.

Throughout ravaging Celtic history, with dashes of obtuse stereotypes, something mind-boggling beautiful happens. Twice, in fact, for as talented as the dancers can be, two vocal performances halt any snorts of derision. Irish singer Paul Harrington performs Four Green Fields, with control and impact which silences the riled-up audience, who have their fieriness doused with Harrington’s glorious rendition, sublimely sung with no distraction. Similarly, Una Gibney’s solo rendition of the Banshee’s Cry, a haunting melody of pitch-perfect tonal proportions is a set which stands out from the rest of the scattered production.

And this is the definitive issue with Celtic Tiger, its ambition is a killer. The production has such a gluttonous need to cover a vast array of genres and methods that it completely misses the mark on what Flatley has always been known for. When taking a moment to reflect, there is an ignition of brilliance. Take the Highland Clearances, the brutality of the redcoats as the flaming buildings unearth dancers, smoked out and wrought with emotion. The tremendous potential is then oversaturated with crocodile tears by a director who sees the faux-emotion, but not the significance.

Repugnantly, this is a five-star extravaganza of variety and movement – reduced to nothing but a pandering mess of cultural appropriation, mickey-mouse history and chauvinistic showboating. Elements of genuine Celtic mythos or haunting aspects of modern Irish history are painted over, glammed up and slapped into the gaping maws of a hungry audience who want their quality technique smothered in Hollywood schlock.

Review originally published for The Reviews Hub: https://www.thereviewshub.com/celtic-tiger-the-shows-must-go-on/

Screen.Dance – Scotland’s Festival of Dance

Originally set to take place in Edinburgh’s magnificently vibrant arts space Summerhall, Screen.Dance, Scotland’s Festival of Dance on Screen, will shift to an online format – presenting a digital programme from Friday 19th – Saturday 20th June. Drawing together dancers, choreographers, artists, film producers and musicians, the event will showcase work across the nation and beyond, forging unity from the local to national and international artists. 

Seeking to create a hybrid of enriched cinema, intersecting movement with image, this festival (unique to Scotland) presents a programme of forty-two short films which from across the globe, with a focus on movement & dance. More than a simple series of curated pieces of choreography, films will hone on the discussions, debates, and conversations on the relationships between filmmaking, dance, activism, and social justice with a programme traversing gender, race, disability and social, economic and political issues.

Hosted by The Works Room Glasgow and the European maPs project from Paris, Screen.Dance will be streaming programmes located in a specific area of their website, with presentations and films beginning from 11 am, Friday 19th June. With support from Film Hub Scotland, the festival will include two world premieres; Navigation by Marlene Millar and Floor Falls by Abby Warrilow, and Jennifer Patterson; a newly commissioned one-minute dance film supported by Creative Scotland.

On the subject of the festival, Screen.Dance Festival Artistic Director Simon Fildes said:

“It’s been so exciting to be able to work with the team at Summerhall, and move the apt genre of Screen.Dance, online. We are incredibly honoured to bring together work from Scotland and the UK, alongside work from countries such as Canada, China, India, and the USA; connecting award-winning artists and audiences to dance and digital...

Alongside films, presentations and discussions, we are delighted to have been able to commission work under the new one minute Screen.Dance commissioning scheme, produced by the company GO/AT, showcasing our commitment to supporting Scottish artists to make high quality work that can be exhibited in a competitive international platform showcase.”

Additionally, Screen.Dance Associate Curator Iliyana Nedkova discussed the programmes representation and variety in genre:

“We are so excited to be continuing to curate and programme work across the Screen.Dance genre – bringing together incredible artists, choreographers, dancers, film-makers and musicians...

 We are proud that the two world premieres this year make up the fact that the programme sees 50:50 gender representation, as we continue to push to bring a mix of artists from across fields into the spotlight.”

For more information, including access to the full programme & films please visit Screen Dance: www.screen.dance

Connect with Screen.dance over social media: Instagram, Facebook & Twitter

Hotter – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Written & Performed by Mary Higgins & Ell Potter

Directed by Jessica Edwards

Real talk here; what gets you off? Do you prefer to be cold or too warm? How about your toilet trips, how’re they coming? These may be the sorts of questions which make some of us blush, so you better crack a window, it’s about to get Hotter in here. Tired of playing life by the straight and narrow, writers and performers Mary Higgins & Ell Potter are best friends, previously dating, and want to discover what gets you hot, and are tired of playing things cool. 

Chemistry is everything, and unsurprisingly, Higgins & Potter have it in droves. Not only with one another, but with their audience, and while there is little to no direct interaction, the room feels like one unit. It’s a safe space, where all the ‘gross’ or ‘private’ affairs are out in the open, slathered on the floor and up for discussion. Because why the hell not? Why should what makes us tick, how we bump, rub and grind through the world be something confined to closed doors, and in the cases of women and transgender, kept silent? Higgins & Potter have a voice, and they intend on using it to speak for the people they have interviewed, young and old, proud and self-conscious, shavers and growers.

More than spoken word, these interviews have been compiled into a delightful expression of movement, which moves from the ludicrous to the sultry, and the downright addictive. Further enhancing an authentic feel, the tightness of the pair’s movements does slip, they laugh, they tumble and smile at one another, and it completely sells the intent of the show – this is the paradigm of feelgood, inclusive theatre. Twerking, slow dancing and incorporating this movement into the physical aspect of comedy, Hotter may well be a comedy in shape, but it has a sympathy of dance sweats of spoken word beneath.

This comedic form prominently exposes itself cheekily as Higgins & Potter incorporate ‘skits’ into the production, is a piece of brilliance. Imitation is the name of the game as the pair give character to the voiceovers we hear of the interviewees. Ranging across the board, each person feels whole, even if a caricature. There’s a backstory in the way Higgins holds her nose up at the woman who preaches warm over cold, or an understanding slouch from Potter. Additionally, the recordings of the girls meeting with Pommie, Potter’s gran, adds a sincerity which touches a nerve, reminding us that despite the humourous nature there’s emotion to Hotter.

Unabashedly diving arse-first into the opinions and feelings concerning body hair, periods, boobs, body image and masturbation, Hotter isn’t here to educate, to drive opinion or push, this is a chat with sincere frankness in delivery. Reflective of the slow removal of clothes, Hotter doesn’t lunge face-first, it gradually builds, as if reflecting the growing self-confidence in accepting our bodies. Exquisitely simple, comforting, Higgins & Potter aren’t talking down to the audience, nor across them, this is our show, your show and it’s about the women and trans people who just want to talk about these things in as natural a way as possible. 

And that’s Hotter’s strength right there, Mary Higgins and Ell Potter. Who not only write a spectacularly exquisite production but carry it in such a genuine manner that nothing feels clinical or intense. Health conscious forbidding, the desire to leap up, embrace a stranger and feel a connection erupts as the show closes. Returning in August, it couldn’t be clearer that even as someone who prefers the cold, sometimes you just have to get a little sweaty, a little flushed and a lot, lot Hotter.

Photo Credit – Holly Revell